Sunday, August 31, 2008

Two years in the life

It was Bank Holiday Monday evening and I was just watching some murder on the T.V. ('C.S.I. Miami' is not as good as it used to be is it? Mind you the women are getting even better looking!) when my phone rang; it was promotess extraordinaire Sarah Pink calling with an intriguing proposition. Would I like to do a week of dates next month with a Ruts tribute band who are supporting Bad Manners on the Northern leg of their upcoming British tour? Well yes, of course I would... it turns out that Foxy's Ruts singer Mark Paul has reformed Savage Circle (he was singing for them when he joined Paul & co.) and his guitarist's mum has been in an accident making him doubtful for the gigs. Sadly the shows are in a week when I've already got I've got 3 C.B.B. gigs which is a shame since I'd loved to have done them- I was just saying to Shirl the other day how it'd be great to do some Ruts stuff again. Still, no moaning- it's good to have the C.B.B. gigs!

Tuesday and Wednesday in the shop were busy enough for this apparently 'quiet' time of year, with American Tom (Paul the guv'nor's daughter Charlotte's boyfriend) photographing much of the shop stock for use in our upcoming internet sales campaign, (well, everyone else is doing it!) and Stuart the guitar repair man ploughing his way through what seemed like a never-ending supply of broken guitars that had accumulated over the last week or so. Ian the former Saturday boy called in to collect his Telecaster, to which Stu has fitted a Fernandez Sustainer unit (how many more gadgets does he need?!? He's already got a pedal board the size of a football pitch!) which- you've guessed it!- allows notes to be sustained indefinitely as well as more bizarre feedback effects to be conjured up at will. All good fun, and to say that Ian is pleased with it is a bit like saying that I was pleased to meet Steve Cropper...

...which happened on Thursday, the 2nd anniversary of my first blog posting. I've just had a random look back through 2006/7- did I really do all that stuff? Yes, I did. Do I really do all this stuff? Yes, incredibly, I do... which reminds me, I must phone a few people and tell them about my Fender endorsement!

Friday I had what theoretically counts as a day off, 'though much off it was spent going through the set for last night's short notice dep gig with The Briefcase Blues Brothers. This is Mario's Blues Brothers band, who I last played with over a year ago (I should look it up in the blog shouldn't I? Hang on, I will... Christmas Eve 2006. Was it really that long ago?) 'though I've worked with Kylan the bassist and Matt the keyboard man in Mario's function band a few times since. Matt joins Mario in the hats'n'glasses, Adam's on drums and we're playing at a wedding at Priston Mill, a very picturesque venue somewhere between Bath and Bristol. Our new sat. nav. takes us straight to it (I knew we should have bought one ages ago!) and we're set up and soundchecked in no time, which is just as well since we're on at the unusually early hour of 8.30 p.m. with a Frank Sinatra tribute act on for the hour before us. Although Mario & co. play many of the same songs as us (they'd have to if you think about it!) a lot of them feature different arrangements, and are often in different keys making for, shall we say, an interesting gigging experience for your humble narrator- but I have to say, a highly enjoyable one despite the odd missed cue here and there. Oh, and Matt did the splits during 'Shake Your Tailfeather'. He's a martial arts expert you know...

This week I'm working in the shop, going to see The Sex Pistols in Hammersmith and X-Ray Spex in Camden Town, gigging in Basildon with The Chicago Blues Brothers- looks as though there's more than enough going on to keep me blogging for another year. Excellent!

Friday, August 29, 2008

That's me on the left...

...and that's Steve Cropper on the right. Really!

We're in the dressing room at Dingwalls in London's Camden Town, where Mr. Cropper had just delivered a storming set with The Animals during which he played some predicably excellent guitar and gave some of the most entertaining song introductions I've ever heard; then again I suppose there aren't too many people who can recall the time that Otis Redding called him on the studio phone to say that he'd be over straight away as he had an idea for a song that he wanted to work on, about watching ships rolling in on the tide and then rolling away again... actually if you think about it, he's the only person that can tell that particular story. Anoraks such as myself will say that the highlight might well have been the version of 'Water' (from the album 'Jammed Together' which he made with Albert King and Pops Staples- what do you mean you haven't got it?!?) but there wasn't too much wrong with any of it really. The Animals were great too- you forget how many hit singles bands like them had back in the '60's don't you?

Anyway he seemed like a very nice chap, he knew my name for over 30 seconds, and, if that wasn't enough, he gave me a plectrum with his name on one side and a little drawing of him on the other!

Fantastic! - just in case you don't know who he is!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ok- where do I sign?

Leigh's mad world of guitars just got madder- I've just got off the phone from my new friend Russell who works in the marketing dept at Fender; he tells me that as of now (that's NOW!) I'm an officially endorsed Fender artist! Hurrah!

It's funny- I don't feel any different...

So- what does this all mean? Parties with Clapton and co. somewhere in the South of France? A house full of free guitars? An entire wardrobe of Fender t-shirts? Er, no... it means that I'm allowed to put something like 'Leigh uses Fender guitars and amplifiers' under my picture on our website and in our theatre brochure (although I must use the Fender logo, and follow it with one of those little 'R-in-a-circle' symbols as it's a registered trademark. That's it at the top of this posting, he sent me it as an e-mail attachment- I can't work out how to make it any smaller!) and, well, that's about it really. No freebies (I didn't want any, honest! And anyway, 'Clapton pays for his too' according to Russell) 'though I can get some things at a discount, which is pretty good if you think about it- and it'll be a good laugh telling certain people that I'm an 'officially endorsed Fender artist'. Watch their noses jump out of joint!

Hmm... maybe some things are better left to the imagination. No wonder I don't feel any different!
-I'm not on there yet but don't worry, I'll let you know the moment that I am!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sign of the times

Now I don't know about you, but I for one am outraged. How dare they suggest that us, the 'ladies and gents of the band', would ever use naughty words, and in doing so suggest that the Chicago Blues Brothers themselves wouldn't?!?

More about that in a minute. On to much weightier matters… I’ve had a cold all this week. It’s been awful. No really, it has. I know that like all 6 ft tall men (that's 183cm for my younger readers, assuming that I have any) I’m a complete wimp, and anyway it wasn’t a cold, it was flu, and man-flu at that- but it’s been awful! AWFUL! I nearly sneezed my bloody brains out! Argh! I even had to forgo helping Stu at the theatre on Thursday, such was the terrible depths of my suffering. Fortunately I woke up yesterday morning feeling a bit better (although that doesn’t alter the fact that I still felt awful, I just didn’t feel quite as awful as I’d felt earlier in the week) and I even called Pete to tell him how horrific my week had been; he’d been up all night working on the brochure for our upcoming theatre shows. I suddenly felt a total fool for moaning, although this of course still doesn’t alter the fact that, in case I haven't mentioned it yet, I felt awful… I also called Mario who was due to be coming along to the gig with us to warn him of the millions, maybe even billions of germs that could easily be lying in wait for him in the ensuing few hours; he didn’t sound too concerned (notice how I’ve avoided mentioning a possible but potentially heightist reason why) ‘though did say that he might call Tracy to go with her. In the event he came with us, seemingly oblivious to the frightening level of risk he was exposing himself to by doing so. And I still felt awful.
In a desperate attempt to launch ourselves into the 21st century (and to save me from looking blankly at slightly out-of-date maps and realising that I need a new pair of glasses) myself and the long-suffering Shirley have finally bought ourselves one of those new-fangled sat. nav thingys. An initial experiment during last week’s visit to Brighton was encouraging- but we already knew the way there; so what better way to test it out than to use it to find our way to The Mercury Theatre in Colchester?
When I woke up we were nearly at the Colchester turn-off on the A12. I didn't feel quite as awful as I had felt earlier which was a good thing, but I now had to attempt to work the sat. nav. which I hadn't yet switched on- well, you don't want to rely on these things do you? By the time I'd managed to get it to tell us where we were we'd already got lost. That's where following the signs for the theatre gets you eh? (Yeah I know, it's supposed to be on when you leave home- but that would just be silly wouldn't it?) Still we found it eventually- it was just around the corner from the Nip-pon Japanese restaurant; Shirley remarked that it had the same name as the well-known brand of ant killer just as the sat. nav. advised us to 'turn around where possible' and sent us in the opposite direction. Time for a map and some new specs then...
Colchester clearly specialises in amusingly-named oriental eateries as the Orientation Chinese restaurant is next to the Mercury Theatre. (Incidentally, did you know that the radio show that broadcast Orson Welles' interpretation of H.G. Wells' 'The War Of The Worlds' in America back in 1938- you know, the one where listeners thought that aliens really were invading Earth and that resulted in widespread panic- was called 'The Mercury Theatre On The Air'? Don't say you never learn anything here!) As we drove around the back of the venue to load our gear in I spotted a photo of our old drummer John Skelton on a poster for an upcoming T.Rextasy show. Good to see that it's all working out well for him as he agonised over whether or not he should join them. I threatened to poke him in the eye if he didn't!
With everything loaded in it's soundcheck time. It's our first theatre show since the end of May and, apart from Ian depping for a still-on-holiday Richard on saxophone it's an A-Team gig- Dave on trumpet, Ian on keyboards, Marc on drums, Squirrel on bass, Tracy on vocals and Mario and Mike as Jake and Elwood, with Pete on hand to direct operations and his wife Jayne along as wardrobe mistress. It's a significant show for Mike as it's pretty much a hometown gig for him (see the 'band blog' on our website for his thoughts on this) and, excellently, the show is sold out in advance. Soundcheck mostly consists of us running through 'Funky Nassau' (returning to the show for the first time in years) and the songs that the dancers (last seen with us at the Norwich shows back in April) will be joining us on; although these are different girls, backstage the sign remains the same... everything goes pretty much according to plan, and there's time to go for a drink across the road in The Hole in the Wall before returning to the theatre for a 7.30 show. Maybe Mike was nervous, or maybe we need to print bigger set lists- either way he introduced 'My Girl' several songs too early; we sent Tracy to tell him off. There's a few loose moments (like I say, it'd been a while since the last theatre show) with all of us admitting to the odd 'now what happens?' thought here and there, and I had at least one 'oh no, the paracetamol's worn off' moment when everything went a bit shaky- but it turned out to be a good show to return to theatreland with. I even got asked to sign some programmes afterwards, which doesn't happen too often. Excellent!
I feel much better today, which just goes to show that what I've thought all along is true- playing electric guitar really is good for you! I just hope Shirley didn't catch it...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

It's competition time again! (a.k.a. The Blogs Brothers)

Behold these somewhat disturbing images of two of my Chicago Blues Brothers bandmates relaxing backstage after last month's Grays festival show. Dave appears to be making a bizarre protest at being asked to hang his stage shirt up whilst Mario... well, to be honest I'm not really sure what Mario was doing, 'though I definitely don't like the look of that wet patch on the floor... anyway, not being one to miss out on a cheap laugh (admit it, we're all as bad as each other!) I thought it might be fun to have a caption competition- you know, like they do on 'Have I Got News For You'. So- any ideas?
All this shameless stitching-up of my mates gives me chance to mention that we've just started a band blog from our website (edited by your humble narrator no less) where you can read about our wild 'n' wacky exploits as written by the lads 'n' lasses of the band themselves; go to-
- or follow the link from the C.B.B. website.
In the meantime, get captioning!- although let's face it, it's more than likely that Voltorol will win...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hair guitar (sorry!)

I've just got in from playing one of the more, shall we say, unusual gigs of my dubious career- in a shop window. Let me explain...

There are quite a few barber shops in Uxbridge, but there's only one like Horsepower Hairdressing. It's owned and run by Adam (easily distinguishable from the other shop owners in the area thanks to his red and black mohican haircut) and it's perhaps best described as a 'rock'n'roll hairdressers', with 'Kill Bill' posters on the wall and non-stop MTV on the screens, not to mention some very nice young ladies working there (sorry Shirl!) Obviously I have what's left of my hair cut there- where else could I find somewhere as mad as this?!?- and it was during the course of a conversation with Adam one day that he mentioned that he was having a party to him taking over the shop (it used to be called Toffs) and would I be interested in playing at it? It took me all of a split second to say yes... so it was then that The Pete Tobit Experience (a.k.a. PTX) took to the stage at The Clubhouse on Stockley Park last night. Earlier in the evening The Unknowns had played their second-to-last gig (their last show is at The Ace Cafe on September 12th) and very good they were too, mixing rockabilly standards with original material and getting plenty of dance floor action in the process.
So- how were The PTX going to follow this then? Very well as it happens- with Pete on acoustic guitar and vocals, Squirrel on bass, Ian on keyboards and Marc on drums we played a fair bit of our CBB material (Ian playing the horn riffs excellently) and with Pete in full 'Mr. Showbiz' mode we also managed to find our way through the likes of 'Brown Eyed Girl' without too many problems. Someone called out for some rock'n'roll- Pete was straight into Carl Perkins's 'Honey Don't' without missing a beat, with us boys in the band not too far behind. I must admit that I'd wondered how well we'd go down with The Suicide Shifters (a rather scary looking group of hot rod enthusiasts) and Adam's biker mates, but it was great to see them all getting into the show, even singing along with 'Knock On Wood' with Pete in their midst with a radio mic. When I'd originally talked to Adam about the gig he'd said that he thought we'd be ideal for it as there'd be quite a cross-section of people there including his mum and dad, and it turned out that he was correct (thank God!)

In addition to the 'big' party at Stockley Park Adam told me that they were having a smaller bash in the shop itself the next day. 'Let me know if you want me to do something there as well' said I, little believing that he actually would; having over-committed myself yet again (Shirley's always telling me off!) I immediately implicated my old mate Andy Cross with the question 'do you fancy a gig in a barber's shop window?' There's only one answer to that, as they say...

Arriving at the shop just after midday we set up in front of the sinks, parked Andy's battlebus in The Chimes car park and, pausing only to watch a few minutes of the fashion show taking place in the shopping centre, (yes, you read that bit right) we returned to the shop to find the bar open (yes, you read that bit right as well; Adam really is the man who put the bar in barbers!) and people arriving on assorted motor bikes and hot rods. Better get on with it then- starting with 'Before You Accuse Me' and armed with Andy's Big Book Of Songs we ducked and dived our way through twenty-something songs throughout the afternoon. The Suicide Shifters provided much merriment with some splendid old cars (including a Ford Consul; we had one of those- it looked a lot bigger when I was a lad!) and haranguing your humble narrator about the previous night's show ('you're not playing knock knock knock on wood again are you?') Meanwhile Harley Davidson's mixed with Oldsmobile's much to the astonishment of passers-by, and Andy changed many-a lyric to suit the occasion (either that or I'd never noticed the line 'Sunday I sit and play in a barber's shop window' in 'Stormy Monday' before!) A genuinely unique performance- until the first anniversary party next year that is. Excellent!

Friday, August 15, 2008

One man band(s)

In my capacity as an internationally successful rock god guitar hero I'm lucky enough to spend a fair bit of my time on stages throughout the world basking in the often near-hysterical acclaim that my adoring audiences foist upon me. From time to time I occasionally allow myself to think about how, as I am a relatively shy person in 'real' life, it's a very good job that-

(a) hiding behind my guitar gives me a licence to behave in a manner that I wouldn't normally dare, and

(b) how lonely I would be if I didn't have my bandmates with me.

On the very rare occasions that I've gone on stage without a guitar and/or a band (I've introduced bands here and there, not least at the last few Price re-union gigs) I've always been struck with how ridiculous my voice sounds through the P.A. system, not to mention how blank my mind goes the moment I open my mouth to speak. As a result I've got a more-than-sneaking admiration for stand-up comedians (surely one of the loneliest jobs in the world; yeah, I know, tell that to a lighthouse keeper- but you know what I mean!) not to mention the classic guitar-and-voice performer in the Billy Bragg/Bob Dylan mould, both of whom go on stage with nothing to protect them from the baying wrath of the psychotic hoards that we artistes are obliged to face in an effort to scrape together what passes for a living wage in our sad little worlds, except their material and their ability to know when to stop. Then again I've just seen 2 shows by 2 very different solo performers, both of whom showed just what can be done if you know what you're doing...

On Wednesday night Henry Rollins took to the stage for a 'spoken word' show at The Komedia in Brighton not long after 8.30 p.m. armed only with a microphone; he left it nearly 2 and 3/4 hours later having covered subjects as diverse as travelling halfway around the world to see a Nick Cave gig, deputising for Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones on his radio show (his spoof revue of an imaginary Pistols show with Rotten in a matching skirt-and-handbag combination and Jones suspended over the crowd during the firework finale was one of the funniest things I've ever heard) and visiting Nelson Mandela's old prison cell. He spoke passionately of his work campaigning against world hunger one minute, then told a hilarious story about drinking unexpectedly strong coffee in a Lebanese taxi driver's house the next- and yet together it all seemed to make perfect sense. Having seen his Hammersmith show back in January (see 'Lost and found' posting) I was amazed at just how much new material there was in the show- how does he write/remember all that stuff? To describe him as a 'good talker' is a bit like saying that The Beatles wrote a few good songs. It was interesting to hear people coming up to him after the show with words like 'you're smaller than you look on the stage'- a testament to his larger-than-life stage presence methinks. An extraordinary performance by an extraordinary performer- and he'd put me and Shirl on the guest list! Hurrah!

Yesterday evening myself and the long-suffering Shirley, accompanied by Stuart the guitar repairman, traveled to the wilds of Buckinghamshire to see Kris Dollimore at The Crown in Ley Hill. I saw Kris play a solo show back in February last year (see the rather over-emotional '12 bar club blues' posting; I also saw him in the reformed Godfathers earlier this year as refered to in the 'Brothers in arms' posting) and have been raving to Stuart about him ever since; it's always a bit nerve-racking to recommend a guitarist to someone like Stuart who has worked for pretty much every well-known player in the world over the last 30-or-so years, but thankfully the mighty Mr. Dollimore didn't let me down. With his left foot stamping on a mic'd up board and his right foot playing a tambourine (I'm not making this up!) he played most of his '02/01/1978' album alongside blues standards and new original material and was utterly spellbinding throughout. Shirley's just told me that she could have watched and listened to him all night, and I know how she feels- whether on acoustic or electric guitar, or using a plectrum or fingers he played brilliantly. If there was a highlight then it might have been his version of Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' reworked as an ominous instrumental, but he didn't put a note out of place all night. As we left the venue I said something like 'off home to practice then' to Stu- but I'll need to practice until doomsday to be able to play as well as he did, never mind being able to sing and tap my feet in 2 different rhythms at the same time. Wonderful stuff.

In these days of manufactured bands made up of reality T.V. 'stars', and pre-packaged brain dead indie kids thinking that they're 'angry' it's heartwarming for a miserable old fart such as myself to be able to think that there are still people out there that can deliver performances like the ones I've described here. I really must work harder at what I do- as Henry put it, 'my enemy is sleep'- as there's always more that can be done, and I for one will take inspiration from watching people like these; they'll never be fashionable or trendy, and they're plotting their own course through life to do what they want to do, what they have to do...

...and when I'm next loafing about moaning about my latest neurotic non-crisis, please remind me of what I've just written here!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Soul Man

Very sad to hear that Isaac Hayes has died- I can still remember hearing 'Shaft' for the first time as a guitar-interested (soon to be guitar-obsessed) schoolboy and wondering what on earth that sound was; all these years later it still sounds to me like the song that the wha-wha pedal was invented for (although for a Hendrix fan/bore like me there's more than a few votes for 'Voodoo Chile', 'Burning of the Midnight Lamp' etc.) With David Porter he co-wrote 'Soul Man', 'Hold On, I'm Coming', 'I Thank You'- how much cooler does it get than that? He also wore some of the most astonishing outfits any of us will ever see, 'though I'm not too sure about all that 'Black Moses' stuff myself...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Eh Eh?

...which went well for the lad- rather better than yesterday, when he arrived at the shop without his keys. Ooops! After his parents had dropped them off he opened the shop to discover that Simon had phoned in sick, leaving him to face the masses on his own. I would have gone in to help him, but I was already partway into an unusually memorable day...

As I stumbled up the hill with a guitar over one shoulder and a clothes bag over the other I reflected on how difficult it can be to carry a large umbrella in the wind and rain- rather ironic given the fact that it's designed to protect you from those very things. I started to cross the road, which was a mistake considering that there was a car coming towards me at the time. It wasn't indicating to turn right 'though it was obviously about to do so, which was a controversial move as that it would mean jumping a red light- which it did. I caught a split-second sight of the woman at the wheel, she was maybe 50-something and looked terrified, like she was trying to escape from something or someone. I hastily stepped back on to the kerb and let her pass by; a car skidded to a halt to let her do the same. As I wondered why she'd done what she'd just done my mobile phone rang- it was Ian at the shop, telling me that he'd just found out that he was to be on his own in there all day. I felt guilty at not being able to go over there to help him, which was silly really as I'd said ages ago that I was unable to work as I was away gigging- but that's how I felt.
I called in to see Shirley at work to drop the umbrella off in case she needed it for her walk home. I think I was a bit shaken by the incident a few seconds earlier, and was feeling bad about myself regarding Ian's situation; either way I was rude to her. That's bad. As I made my way down to Uxbridge underground station I was wet from sweat and rain, and felt like I'd just been nasty to the only person in the world who was still on my side. It's funny how things get on top of you sometimes isn't it? Well, they certainly get on top of me... I sat on the train, trying to read an article in the latest 'Mojo' magazine about The Blues Brothers, but couldn't get my mind off the face of the woman driving the car- why was she driving like that? Should I have got the number plate in case I read about her in the papers tomorrow? I was so lost in it all that I nearly missed my station. That wouldn't have helped things- I was due to meet the band at Richard's at 12.45 and time was short. As I got on my connecting train I heard the station announcer say 'very good... not very good at keeping it up are you?' My mobile phone rang- it was Ian. Of course. The day was getting stranger.
By the time I got to Richard's I was soaked from walking from the station. His wife Isobel gave me a hairdryer, suggesting that I use it on my clothes; it sounded like a bit of a mad idea but amazingly it worked- with the rest of the band delayed on the M25 I had time to dry my jacket and trousers in between phone calls from Ian. Eventually they arrive, in a hired van which we've just started using. We're on our way to play an open air festival at The Lawn Pleasure Grounds in Sutton-in-Ashfield near Mansfield. Hmm... an open air festival... 2-and-a-bit hours later we arrive, it's obviously been raining but it's not too bad at the moment, there's a local band on playing 'Superstition', they sound ok if a little 'ordinary' if you know what I mean. We meet up with dep drummer Steve and dep trumpeter Adam and set off in search of food, pausing only to collect some free meal vouchers from the organisers. We're due on in a couple of hours time at 6 o'clock, with headline act Killer Queen (guess who they're a tribute to? I can't get away from them can I?!?) on at 8 o'clock. After eating in The Pavilion (veggie option- chili and chips, not too bad) it's back to the stage for a quick sound check- except that it's not, because Killer Queen haven't got their stuff set up yet. I go over to their guitarist, say hello and introduce myself, he looks at me blankly and walks off. I think about saying something like 'the real Brian May's a much nicer bloke than you are you prat'- but my phone rings. It's Ian. Again. Poor bugger.
It's 5.45 before they finished setting up and soundchecking, mostly because they play along to backing tracks (I wonder if their 'fans' know that?) and it took a while to sort everything out. From the little contact that I had with any of them I could say here that the other reason that it may have taken them so long might have been that they've all got their heads so far up their collective arses that they couldn't hear themselves playing- but I'm not going to say that here, because that would be unprofessional, childish, even spiteful, however accurate a statement it might or might not be... we get set up as quickly as we can, I've got a Fender Blues Deville combo to play through, very nice but deafeningly loud. It also had the wrong footswitch with it; I eventually found the correct one in the back of it- I wonder if any of the earlier bands had found it? We go on around 6.20, it's raining a bit but not too bad, people are getting into it down the front, Pete and Mike are working hard, the band sounds good and we go down pretty well considering that it's pouring down by the time we finish. It's maybe 30-ish yards from the stage to our tent- by the time I get there I'm soaked. Again. Oh well- it's not the worst thing that'll ever happen, and anyway we're finished early for once (7.45!) and with no one too interested in seeing Killer Queen we should be home in no time. As we're leaving the showground someone says something like 'it's still light, we never go home when it's light, can't we wait until it's dark?'

Be careful what you wish for my friends, because sometimes it comes true...

We made our merry way back to junction 28 if the southbound M1; great was the jollity at the thought of being home early on a Saturday night for once- Richard's off on holiday first thing Sunday morning, Tracy's got her parents coming round tomorrow, I've got to get up to buy the papers to see if the woman who jumped the red light's in them... suddenly someone remarks that the van engine's squeaking a bit- then there's a cracking sound and what sitting in the back felt like something hitting the underside of the van. 'Hope that wasn't the fan belt'- but all the collective hope of the band wasn't going to stop it being just that.
We pulled off the motorway at junction 26, Pete got on the phone to The A.A. and the motorway service vehiclemen that had appeared from nowhere advised us to pull round the corner onto the A610 where we could wait in a lay-by for help to arrive. So we did- and there we waited... and waited... and waited... suddenly Pete's phone rang, it's Jackson's recovery, they'll be with us in a few minutes- but the driver says that he'll be no good to us as his vehicle's too small to take the van and all of us. 'What's the point of that?' asks an increasingly agitated Pete, and it's hard not to agree. When he does arrive the man from Jackson's tell us that it's not just the fan belt that's gone, it's the bearing as well, and he'll call The A.A. to get them to send a more appropriate vehicle or 2.
To cut a (very) long story short just over 3 hours after the fan belt and bearing broke we got into a minibus on the forecourt of the garage just up the road from the lay-by, leaving the van there for the A.A. to pick up later. We'd eventually plucked up courage to drive around the corner in search of toilets and food- when we got out at the garage Pete pointed out the yard-and-a-bit long piece of fan belt hanging out of the front of the van. It did break then. In the meantime there's been frayed tempers and sanity, not to mention enough phone calls to keep the entire mobile phone network in profit for the rest of the year.

It's early on Sunday morning, as you can tell from the time of this posting. I should be asleep, but there's too much going on in my mind. What happened to the woman in the car? Why did I think it was a good idea to be so unpleasant to Shirley? How did Ian end up on his own in the shop on the one Saturday for ages that I couldn't get there to help him, and why did I feel so bad about it? What on Earth was that tannoy announcement all about? And maybe most of all, just how daft did I look with that hairdryer?

I think that was what's often referred to as 'one of those days'.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Saturday's kids

A more-than-occasional visitor to these hallowed pages is 'Ian the Saturday boy'. He started at Pro Music just after I did (incredibly that's over 2 years ago) and has made a considerable impression on the shop's customers, not least the younger female ones... since he's now left school and about to (a) go to university to study Fine Art and (b) about to start working the odd day here and there in the shop on his own I guess I can't call him 'Ian the Saturday boy' any more. So- Ian has been in the shop with me and Simon most of this last week to get a bit of weekday experience, and it's been good to have him around. I think he'll be ok on his own, 'though he won't be able to spend quite as much time looking at
as he normally does- anyone would think he's their guitarist or something...

As if to underline his change of status he wasn't available to work yesterday (he was away participating in a pole vault competition. Really!) so Max the carpenter bravely stepped into the breach alongside your humble narrator. I thought I recognised the tall chap interested in trying the electronic drum kits- it was only after he'd left the shop that I realised it was ex-Big Country drummer Mark Brzezicki; after I'd served Chas and Dave's drummer Mick Burt with his sticks I waited hopefully for Ringo, Charlie Watts and the girl out of The White Stripes to arrive, but sadly to no avail. Maybe next week?

After closing up and meeting the long-suffering Shirley it was time to head into the Buckinghamshire countryside for the only gig of the week, at Chris and Debbie's 25th wedding anniversary party in Shabbington near Thame. With the rest of the band already set up and soundchecked we found them at The Old Fisherman pub on the outskirts of the village without too much trouble. Pete's back with Mike in the hats 'n' glasses and Steve's on trumpet next to Richard on sax, but it's the usual suspects apart from that (Ian, Squirrel, Marc, Tracy and myself) and with sound guru Ian Bond away in the U.S.A. with King Crimson (call the prog-rock police!) Rod's behind the sound desk. After a quick drink we made our way to the venue, another tent in the back garden (we get a few of these at this time of year). I got set up as quickly as possible, then there was just enough time to get changed and grab a drink before our first set. There'd obviously been a bit of drinking going on (I'll leave you to think about that for a minute!) judging by the amount of rather unco-ordinated antics on the dancefloor, not least during 'Rawhide' where at least one young lady got herself into a position that she may have regretted in the morning... the second set saw Pete and Mike in party mode (Mike had forgotten his black shirt and had to buy a several-sizes-too-small-for-him one from a charity shop on the way to the gig) with much jollity all round. During 'Mustang Sally' Pete introduced the band; as I came off stage a lady stopped me to ask me if I really used to be in The Kinks as she'd 'used to scream at them years ago' (presumably at their gigs, 'though I guess you never know?) I introduced her to Ian- he played for them for many years and still works with Ray Davies from time to time- which seemed to please her greatly... in sharp contrast to the gig refered to in last month's 'Independance Day' posting this was one of the best 'tent gigs' for some time, with friendly people and a splendid evening all round. It's good when that happens!

I'm back in the shop with Ian tomorrow; it's his first solo day on Wednesday...